Episode - 006 - TK Kader - Partnerships as a M&A Vehicle

TK Kader wasn't born to be a BD Professional, but he sure has become one!  If you haven't heard his story, you have to hear the wild Tout - Marketo - Bizible - Adobe story where TK directly oversaw 4 major Martech acquisitions in only 3 years!  

In this show, TK unpacks the lessons of leveraging partnerships as a Mergers and Acquisitions vehicle having been on both the buy and sell-side multiple times.   I think we'd mostly agree, if you only partner to get acquired, it's never gunna happen. But understanding how to drive partnerships that make acquisitions a real option gives you the upper hand in your relationships.  

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This episode is sponsored by Crossbeam. Crossbeam is a partner ecosystem platform. It acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners while keeping the rest of your data private and secure. Sign up for free at Crossbeam.com.


Jared Fuller  00:20
All right, we're rocking and rolling here we got the newly minted Texas TK and then Kevin Hughes joining from somewhere else, and is about to be a Texan. I don't know if that was supposed to be public though.

Kevin Raheja  00:34
No, I don't. I'm nomadic at the moment. So you're nomadic? Yeah. We'll see what happens.

Jared Fuller  00:41
All right. All right. Well, TK so happy to have you. Thank you for joining partner up.

TK Kader  00:44
Thanks for having me.

Jared Fuller  00:46
I'm really excited. Awesome, awesome. Before we hop in just a friendly reminder that this episode is sponsored by cross beam cross beam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners, while keeping the rest of your data private and secure. So you can sign up for free at cross beam comm today, though, we got the wonderful TK and TK, we're gonna be talking today about partnerships as an m&a vehicle because you've been on the buy side and the sell side a couple different times. So let's go back to let's go back to tout. Like that time you were on the sell side. And you were the CEO of this company. And there's been some amazing talent that came out of tout like I love was it Dan? That's a winning by design. Oh, gosh, love his content. So good. So good. So you kind of have a legacy that goes all the way back to town of some amazing people. But let's start there, you know, like, what kind of partnership Did you have with Marketo that really unpack that a little bit,

TK Kader  01:53
actually, so like to set the context at a high level. Tout was partners with Marketo. And Marketo, bought out, I was CEO of tout, I was also leading up m&a strategy and alliances and Marketo. And we bought one of our partners, I was part of that deal we bought visible. And then I was also building out our partnership with Microsoft and Adobe. And then Adobe bought Marketo. So m&a partnerships are go hand in hand in more ways than people realize. And in terms of tout, you know, we were a sales engagement platform. We were one of the early ones before sales engagement was a thing. There is a lot of incredible talent that came out of that company that are all over now, which is really cool. And we essentially had two big partners. And because we knew that there were going to be two likely acquirers for the company unless we went big and went IPO. One big partnership was with Salesforce, because that's where most of our customers hung out, which was salespeople and using CRM. And the second big partnership was with marketing automation providers. And that was Marketo, Eloqua, and HubSpot. And through the course of the company without app, we got actually an acquisition offer from HubSpot early on, right before our series a not a lot of people know about that. And then we later on got bought by Marketo. So partnerships were a big part of that.

Kevin Raheja  03:23
So that the tout acquisition was like such an infamous martec acquisition, what was the partnership like with Marketo? And what do you think the metrics were that they were looking at that made them ultimately decide that this was an acquisition played for them?

TK Kader  03:38
75% of our customer base also use Marketo. Yeah. And that like, literally, that was a stat that we talked about in our partnership, conversations, and also literally the m&a Deck when we were talking to Marketo from a more strategic perspective, and the idea for and that's, you know, when I ran alliances on the marchetto side, that's what we look for, with partners that we work with. Also, it's like, Okay, if 75% of a partner's customer base are our customer base, and they're much smaller than us, then we could take that and sell it to all our other customers. And like, Can we do that? And if we can do that, then there's a lot of strategic upside in terms of dominating the space. And that's where it gets really interesting

Kevin Raheja  04:25
is building these partnerships with Adobe and HubSpot and Marketo was the primary objective to get acquired, was it a secondary objective? Or was that kind of not really on your roadmap? At the time?

TK Kader  04:39
Yeah, when you're when you're an early stage founder and you're going venture venture and we were venture backed, we were backed by Andreessen Horowitz, we're backed by Jackson Square ventures. You always are trying to go for as big of the pie as possible and swing as hard as possible. And so in that lens, the lens of partnership are really about how do we get access to their customers, because we know that their customers should be our customers hundred percent. And like literally, if I could just get a list of all their customers, I know I could go pitch them and sell them. That was the idea behind targeting Salesforce Marketo, a little bit of HubSpot. HubSpot wasn't quite in our core dev demographic, a core ICP. And so for us, it was always how do we get access to their customers? And how do we get unfair access to their customers, and that was a primary driver. And then there was always a secondary driver of you always want to kind of hedge your bets, and have deep relationships with potential acquirers. And that's why like, there was also a secondary thing of like, Well, how do we continue the conversations with the top executives as well?

Jared Fuller  05:47
Whenever you were building out that early partnership at tout, talk to me a little bit about how the engagement really worked. From like, the field perspective, like were you actively engaged in what we'll call typical partner motions, like, you know, co selling account mapping with Marketo, at that time, where you were actively selling, selling into their base right with them? Or was that more of something that happened after the fact?

TK Kader  06:14
Yeah, this is actually like, I don't know. So honestly, dealing with as a township CEO, and the title company, dealing with the marchetto partner organization was absolutely a nightmare. It was the worst. Their API's weren't really great. They just wanted money for no good reason. And they like didn't have anything organized. And they and we were also smaller, so they weren't like, sure if they wanted to give us the time of day, it was the worst. And but what we did, but what we knew was every single customer that we were pitching that was in the mid market and enterprise, like last minute on the deal, and be like, oh, by the way, we use Marketo. Also, they have a Marketo integration. So we needed an integration because we were losing deals because of it. And that was like one of the clearing points. So we hacked their Munchkin API. And we found obscene ways of getting data into Marketo. So that we could check the box on saying, Yes, we integrate into Marketo. And we're on launchpoint. And we're fine. Like the data will flow and marketers will know what the salespeople are doing. And that got us to win a lot of deals. So I think for tout out particularly, and I think this will be true, depending on your audience, whether they're early stage later stage in the early stages, API's as a form of business development and partnerships is super powerful. And we leveraged that like crazy with Salesforce with Marketo with Google. And that's what really getting into their marketplaces, checking the box on integrations, getting the data flowing one way or the other. Whether we had to hack their API's or do it through their formal API's, we did it. And that got us a lot of traction and access in the in the customer base.

Kevin Raheja  07:51
Did you did you miss that? gap? Okay, did you build that integration primarily as a retention mechanism for your existing customers? Who are requesting it? Or were you actually like acquiring customers from, say, marchetto? With a partnership, or was it both,

TK Kader  08:07
but both? So anytime we did an API integration, we did one with LinkedIn, we did one with Google we did on Salesforce to do longer Marketo, three to four things happen. Number one, we would start mentioning in every deal and say, Hey, by the way, we're integrated with the systems you're already using Marketo, Salesforce, check, check, boom, boom, it's easy, always made the deal flow process easier, because they're like, Oh, good, all our data is gonna flow everywhere. Great. Number two, we got it out to our existing customers. And that's one more hook into their core systems, and that increase the moat and increase the retention. Number three, we always made a big announcement saying this, like we are integrating with this company, sometimes other companies would be involved in announcement and sometimes they weren't, we didn't care, we're like, we're announcing with this big company where all their customers should be our customers, and would make a big deal out of it. And that allowed us to get a lot of air cover and and and use that to actually attract create more leads as well. And then out of that, we would also then, that would give us fodder for advertising either into their customer base or marketplaces and saying, we now integrate with Marketo, we now integrate into Salesforce. And here's the key benefits that you get with this with this integration. So you would that one single API partnership, even whether the other parties involved or not, you could do those four things, like increase the velocity of your deals, retain the customers with one more point integration point which increases your moat. Big make a big announcement and also run advertisements on that platform is audience just super powerful. We're your sellers actively engaged with marchetto

Jared Fuller  09:41
sellers, or AMS or CSM or not

TK Kader  09:44
for us, we never got into like a co selling agreement or like because ours was interesting. Um, so there was a interesting mechanism there. Our primary buyer for sales engagement was the sales ops person and the VP of sales. And what would always happen is all the way at the last minute on the deal, the marketing person, the dimension person will get involved and say, hold on a second sales is buying an email platform, and they're going to now send emails like, whoa, whoa, this is blasphemous. And, you know, sales will be like, yeah, we're going to do this because you're not giving us enough. And so in order to win the deal, and get marketing sign up, we have to be able to say, Don't worry, whatever emails that go out, will also be updated in Salesforce and Marketo. So that there's never going to be any crossfire. Everyone's going to know what's going on. And that allowed us to win the deals. And sometimes that would, that would stop us from getting the deal. So that's the reason that's the main reason we.

Jared Fuller  10:41
So I think I got a thread here that I want to pull. What's really interesting is that you had different buyers marchetto had a marketing buyer marketing, marketing ops really didn't really exist back then kind of did not really, it's more like demand Gen marketing leadership. You had a sales leader, I'm assuming what was strategic to Marketo at the time was like, hmm, we need to continue to grow. We need a olive branch into sales leadership, right. And I think a lot of people in partnerships, they're the tip of the tip of the TAM, I heard that phrase today, the tip of the TAM, where it's like, they're trying to develop new markets, or new personas or new verticals. So do you think marquetta was thinking like, the talent acquisition, okay, we can sell through and make money, but we need something defensible against, you know, Salesforce and their threat, right with par dot, for example, was that a big component of what made that relationship more strategic,

TK Kader  11:35
there's two things that drove the tower acquisition. One was marchetto, had this Salesforce integration called MSI. And MSI was built on the Salesforce platform. And they needed to find a way that to get off of that and have an independent product that's not on the Salesforce platform. So that was one. And how that was exactly that. It could replace MSI, it could do similar features, it was not built on the Salesforce platform was independent. And it was also an extension beyond just here's a lead, it helps you engage. And so that was half the half the reason they bought the company, the other half the reason and this is like m&a takes on many forms. Like I've done m&a deals, and I've been part of m&a deals. And you'd be shocked how many different reasons go into buying an m&a transaction for an m&a transaction to happen. Almost half is always like the revenue opportunity. The other half is really about something else for marchetto and tout app. The context here is marchetto had just gone private by Vista. And there was new leadership, the entire the past, the executive team completely moved on. And so literally, like brand new CEO, brand new CFO who joined the same month that I did brand new chief sales officer, brand new CEO, and they needed to build out the bench of the executive team as fast as possible. And so the other half was essentially they needed more talent on the executive team. And so the other half was like, because the reason I know this is I was also like, Hey, you want just out right? I'm going to go to the beach and like, go Take it easy, like no, no, we're half of this, you got to sign on also, and you got to stay. And it's not just photography, you also have to help with marchetto. And so that's why not, that's the other half of the deal.

Jared Fuller  13:21
So what's starting to happen after that, like, you've explained kind of the reasons why it was strategic to the market. And then all of a sudden, you're like, Wait a second, I'm really taking on like a true, like, executive partner role. Like, let's talk a little bit about that transition from CEO of tout app, I'm sure you had product stuff that you had to transition into. Now I'm responsible for an ecosystem.

TK Kader  13:44
aises um, some, you know, origine normally, when you sell a company, the founder kind of takes a month off. And so it's just did you I did not know, tell you what happened. Um, um, it was just like the stage we were in. So I joined April of 2017. And, you know, Mark had just gone private brand new team, I just showed an executive team, we're hiring new execs. And within the first month, like I'm running the integration, that was my first thing. The second thing was overall corporate strategy, helping the CEO with that. That was my second thing. All of a sudden, I get a phone call. And they're like, Hey, can you just fly to Paris and do a keynote? I'm like, Why are you saying he's like, Listen, Steve can go, so you need to go. You're the proxy. So just get on front and you're gonna do the keynote in front of all the French marketers. So I did that. And the day after that night, we took the team out to dinner and the team went crazy on like, Hey, there are all these crazy things that are going on. What are you guys doing your new executive team member? I was their age. So they're, like super honest with me. So I wrote out this 10 point email to Steve the CEO and like, Hey, here's everything that's wrong in Europe. I think we got to like take a look at this and I'm going a month in on the job and Prior on the integration trying to figure out strategy, a day later, I find out that they're they're like, Hey, you need to go run Europe. And I'm like, Oh, okay. It's like, is this a new job? Like, no, in addition to everything else you're doing? I'm like, Okay. I'm like, Can I think about it? And this was my CEO at the time. He's like, yeah, you can think about it. And we're like, I went from San Francisco to Paris, I flew to Vancouver for an off site. And this is where I'm having a conversation with the CEO. And so we have our off site. It's been a day and he's like, Hey, are you going to New York after this? I'm like, yeah, I'm going to New York, we had our QPR. So he's like, Okay, good, because you definitely need to be there. I'm like, Okay, great. So I go to the New York, I've been on the road forever. Now. This is a month into the job. And right, as a QPR is about to start the CEO gets in front, he's like, hey, by the way, I have a special announcement to make. tk here is going to be taking over Europe. And, and, and like I hadn't even signed on yet. And so and so we do the QPR, and they talk to me, like, Listen, you got to do this is like, we need you to do this. There's no one else that can do this right now, because the exact team was just getting built out. And so I'm like, Okay, cool. I guess I'll do it. It's like, okay, where are you going after this? I'm like, I'm going home. I've been on the road forever is like, No, you have to come to to Dublin with me. And we got to announce your role. And so I had to go to Brooks Brothers and buy like a new clothes, because I've been on the road for so long, and flew to Dublin made the announcement and then started running Europe. I did Europe for a quarter, about a quarter about our new leader came back. I had my ONE ON ONE WITH STEVE. And Steve's like, Listen, you don't have to, but if you did, it'd be great. I'm like, Okay, what he's like, I need you to go to Australia and run the ANZ region now and do the same thing. Because our guy over there laughed, and you know, you got to go like, we're, we need help. I'm like, okay, so I moved to move to Australia. I did that for another quarter turn, like kind of picks up the region, we hired someone new, we poached the leader of Eloqua to come into Marketo, which was awesome when. And then I came back and I had another one on one. And he's like, okay, here's what we need to do next. And then he gave me alliances, because alliances had been broken for a long time and marchetto. And then that after Europe after Australia, then I took on alliances. And by the way, along with this, I was still running strategy and m&a at the same time. So it was like an interesting ride. And that's kind of how the whole thing came together. Right after that.

Jared Fuller  17:29
We alliances that marchetto was the combination of like tech partnerships and service partnerships. That's right. Okay, so it was both under that banner. Yep. Just want to make sure I understood. And then when it visible into this picture,

TK Kader  17:43
bizible was always a partner. And it was the same story. Except, like Aaron did get to take a month off, which I'm always jealous of after, but it was the same thing like we were, they were a great partner, and a year had passed, and we had more cash to deploy. And it was like part of the playbook to run, do another acquisition, we looked at a couple of companies and visible was one of the popular ones. Again, a huge concentration of our customer base made a ton of sense. There was a little bit of like, back and forth, because technically marchetto did attribution, but visible, did attribution better. And this is one of those classic, like a startup can just focus on one simple, one key problem not simple, it's actually really tough problem to solve that Aaron and his team did. And they did it 10 times better than what our team was able to do. And so we bought it and everyone was happy. And that's how it came together. But they were a great partner as well. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship in that role that you were in between strategy and alliances? And like, what the interplay there was between those two departments or groups? I didn't go hand in hand. Like I think I think that, um, when it comes to alliances, roles, you can look, there's two ways to play the game. And one way is that you focus purely on a revenue perspective on like, how do we get influenced revenue and source revenue going? Right? And how do we make sure we have some form of an ecosystem, right? Like it's purely a revenue thing? And it's very much what do we do this quarter, right? And how are we contributing? That's one, that's one plane, you can do alliances and the other plane, you can do alliances. And this is often why it's coupled with strategy, like you have a Chief Strategy Officer kind of owns this piece on m&a strategy and alliances, is you say, Well, what is the future? And how do we capture more market share? And in order to go capture that market, share and realize our vision, who are there two or three really strategic partnerships that we would do? Who are the two or three really focused m&a transactions that we would do and who are the two or three really strategic service part That we would do to go acquire more of the type of customers that would take this new vision that we're creating. And so you start to do a really great chest move on, okay, boom, 5%. Here's what we want, alright, and that because of that here, the service partnerships, here, the technology, marquee partnerships, and here are the m&a deals that we're going to do. And here's how we're going to really move this giant ship that we're operating. And that kind of goes hand in hand with the CEO and the CEO. And it's almost in a different plane than just the chief revenue officer who's really focused on this quarter.

Kevin Raheja  20:30
It's a really fun role, because it forces you to look ahead into the future 510 years out and really look at trends. And this is a very similar role to the one I had at HubSpot. And were you looking at your launchpoint partners as from like, the lens of m&a? Was, were you kind of like were there signals from that ecosystem that you would use to determine which partners or which categories of partners you want to focus on?

TK Kader  21:02
Yeah, we did. And launch point was a was a great source of data, also revenue, like the launch point program. So there's a gentleman named Shai that reported to me that ran launch point. And he did a tremendous job of taking launch point, which was kind of just a directory of partners to like a true ecosystem where we actually had revenue share we had co selling. And that was one of the big priorities we had during our transformation. And once we did that, we were able to see which partners really rose up, did more sophisticated partnership deals with us beyond just API's, in terms of CO marketing, co selling. And that also allowed us to really set the table on what are some of the strategic partnerships that we would do. Like, during my time, as as part of alliances, we essentially had three priorities. And this was aligned with the goals of the company. The first priority was forging strategic partnerships with Microsoft, and, and Google, because we couldn't with Salesforce, so the what was left was essentially Microsoft from a CRM perspective and a marketing perspective and Google. So we did that. And number two was forging strategic technology partnerships with what we believe were the next gen marketing tools. So that's why like drift was a big one with Chase essentially chased you guys down, and we're like, we're getting, we're getting married one way or another, like, let's go do this. And then the third was, you know, m&a in terms of visible, we did that. And in order to facilitate those, we made sure that we had an army of people that were constantly encouraging the ecosystem to build with us. We had the service partners that were aligned with our vision and thinking about not just deploying marchetto, but thinking about deploying bizible, and any of the strategic partners. So we did. So it all kind of tied together.

Kevin Raheja  23:02
I have to ask this, because I've had so many conversations recently with other SaaS companies about implementing a revenue share for their app ecosystem. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what decision making went into adding a revenue share component into the launch point ecosystem?

TK Kader  23:27
Um, I mean, it's, first of all, a standard playbook. Right? Like the natural evolution of a platform, if you will, is you first have open API's because you don't really know what's possible, then you start to understand the use cases, you pull in the use cases into being native, the ones that you're like, we should do this, this should be core to us. Once you do that, then you start to tighten up API's a little bit. And then you start to see what are the additional use cases that really rise up through your partners that is not going to be core, but as good additional use cases that you want to support in the ecosystem to kind of facilitate that. And then the third stage is you monetize that, even though it's not core, you want to monetize the secondary use cases. So from a ruthless, we want to build a platform playbook point of view. This is exactly what Twitter did. This is exactly what Facebook did. It's exactly what I wouldn't count LinkedIn, because LinkedIn is always like kind of shot. They always Shy Shy out from truly doing something. But the big platforms that's essentially the playbook that they run, and marchetto essentially got to that point where we know what our core was. We knew what were the top partners that were secondary use cases that were still super important in the ecosystem. And we wanted to bubble them up. We wanted that to grow. We wanted to create more lock in and so we wanted to put our sales team and marketing efforts behind that. In order to do that. We wanted Russia and that's how it came together.

Jared Fuller  24:54
Whenever you were whenever you were looking at you No kind of the ecosystem invisible. And you know, you're in this alliance kind of strategy leadership position. I think a lot of companies spray and pray their integrations today, like in 2020. Like they go out, and we need to integrate with everything, build 2030 4050 integrations, and they lack a strategy in that, in that it could develop into something bigger. What advice would you have for someone that's tasked with like, Hey, you need to partner with the ecosystem? How do they go about understanding that there is something bigger here that this integration is not just checking a box, but like, can lead to something strategic to be one of those three or four, you know, focus partners, how to partner leader kind of evaluate that framework?

TK Kader  25:41
Yeah, like one of the things that I do now is I run a SAS go to market coaching program, I work with early stage SAS founders, and we plan out their go to market machine their growth strategy. And this goes hand in hand, every great SAS business essentially has three pillars. The first is market, the second is product, the third is go to market. And a lot of times to your point, founders and early teams will build on product strategy, more features, more integrations, but it's not tied to market strategy and go to market strategy. And what I would, what I would tell you is if you're going to do 1010 integrations or 20 integrations, and by the way, there's going to be a user that once all 20. But what I would ask you is What's your ideal customer profile? What is your market strategy? And what are the platforms that are ready, own those customers and your ideal customer profile, prioritize those integrate with those go deep with those, get into their marketplaces, figure out a way to co selling them, if they'll give you the light of day, they may not in the early days, but they will later. And that is how you prioritize both your product strategy and your market strategy and then mobilizing your go to market.

Jared Fuller  26:51
Definitely, definitely. Let's, uh, let's go back to your story. So you've kind of you're owning the alliances ecosystem, then you've cemented you know, deeper partnerships with Microsoft with Adobe with Google. Whose door did you start knocking on at Adobe because VISTA? Sure, you could tell us tons of stories about Vista, they run a machine, they run a machine to help create that kind of value in a short period of time. But whose doors did you start knocking on at Adobe? And why?

TK Kader  27:22
Yeah, so I think there's always multiple threads to this, like, you know, when you when you are private equity owned, you have the executive team. And then you have operating partners from the VISTA side. And then you have the VISTA owners. And even as an executive team, you get certain visibility into what's going on on top right. Like it's limited sometimes. But and so here's what I know. We never did anything with Adobe ever. Adobe was not on our radar. However, when we were forging a deeper partnership with Microsoft, literally, we were in the Microsoft like partnership team. We were meeting with them. And we're like, all right, like we want your salespeople, your marketing efforts to also promote Marketo. And we will integrate deeper into Azure and Dynamics CRM. And this is a great differentiated strategy so that we're not just dependent on Salesforce, because the other truth is for marchetto, a majority of the customer bases on Salesforce CRM, because they're number one. So we're like, we need to differentiate strategy, we need to hedge our bets here. So we're like, literally in this meeting, we're meeting with them, we're meeting with them. And we knew that Microsoft had a very, very big partnership from marketing with Adobe. And ultimately, in the deal points are all and you know, what was on Play was, hey, if we do this deal, and Microsoft really promotes Mike marchetto, which would be huge for us, and they're all their sales team and everything. Then you got a you know, put by Azure. That's, that's, that's the kind of give and take. And they're like, yeah, we'll do it. But we'll only do it if every time you mentioned Adobe, you also mentioned Marketo, because Adobe is b2c and b2b, and it's complimentary. And you should mention both of us. And, ah, I was the lead on that negotiation. And they're like, we don't know if we can do that. I'm like, Listen, the only way I'm authorized to do anything is if you mentioned us every time you mentioned Adobe. And it got to a point where the meeting got so tense to ask us to leave the room. And so they could talk internally. And like literally call up. This our CEO, Steve and like, we just got kicked out of the room. He's like, that's probably a good thing. And so that was our position dealing with Microsoft, because Adobe was always more b2c than b2b. And so we had nothing to do with them. But Microsoft was the key. And so that conversation right after that, like we I came back, I'm like, Listen, we can't do a deal because they will not mention us. I think they have limitations in terms of Adobe and what they can do. So I don't know this is worth it. And that's when it went up one more level because they live really couldn't get to a deal with us. And Microsoft wanted to get to deal with us. And somehow, and this is where the lines blur a little bit between what the exact team does and the operating team does and the owners do. Then we got into conversation with Adobe. And I can't talk anything beyond that. Because obviously, there's like, super NDA in place and everything. But that's how it came about, at least from a partnership point of view.

Jared Fuller  30:23
Yeah, I mean, I think the narrative is well known in the market outside the specifics that, you know, Adobe, really shored up their b2b business Magento Marketo, right, and has built an amazing b2b arm in a very short period of time using companies that already exist. And now there's great leadership kind of overseeing both of them. in that, in that time, I don't think too many people get the opportunity to see, you know, acquired and then acquired again, you didn't stay in Adobe for too too long. But talk about that, like you were, you know, in a partnerships position, and you just got swallowed by a fortune 500 company. What was that like? being like, Okay, what is partnerships? Like at Adobe?

TK Kader  31:03
Yeah, a incredible organization. You know, one of the things you do after you get acquired is you pull in your direct reports, you talk through the acquisition, what this means for them, because it's always a scary time. It's an exciting time, but also a scary time, because they're like, what happens to me what happens to my job? And, you know, I have no experience building Alliance organizations is the first shot I got at it. And, you know, I was lucky enough, they took a chance on me, and I did it, and we crushed it. And but I had really great lieutenants that were Alliance leaders, and I, and so we were able to kind of work together to create a strategy to win. And one of the interesting things for all the leaders and I pull them together, like we're super excited, I'm like, Okay, tell me why like, and they're like, honestly, the Adobe alliances, organization is world class, they are one of the best, the best of the best when it comes to running Alliance organizations partial organization is and I didn't quite understand until I went in and met some of the people and, you know, work through the integrations and everything. And I'm like, these guys are solid, they're professionals. They understand what true partnership is, and the span and breath at which they create partnerships across Creative Cloud and, and experience cloud. And document cloud is amazing. And so on one hand, it was super amazing. And so I wasn't at Senior Vice President of Marketo. And given my, you know, after, after an acquisition, everything, you renegotiate everything. And so they gave me an offer to stay, incredible offer. And they also and then, like Steve kind of pulled me aside and a couple others, and they were like, Hey, we should interview for this other position. And this other position was part of the strategy organization at Adobe rolling, like, which supports the executive team at Adobe. And so I got to meet a lot of executive members at Adobe to interview for that position. And, and I didn't get that position. I knew I wouldn't, but it was still worth it to give it a shot. And they invited me.

Jared Fuller  33:04
What Why? Because they need to pull in some Bain McKinsey Accenture consultant for that or what?

TK Kader  33:09
Ah, dad and I don't think Adobe is ready for a 30. I was 36 at the time, a 36 year old VP. And I literally told her this. I'm like,

Jared Fuller  33:20
this title that Adobe is like, it's it's intense. That bar is very high. They

TK Kader  33:25
only have they only have like, 100 VPS. In the entire company.

Jared Fuller  33:28
That's right. How many employees?

TK Kader  33:30
Ah, I want to say 15,000. But am I wrong? Yeah,

Jared Fuller  33:33
it's insane. It's Yeah, so extremely high bar. It's it. I mean, what the CEO of Informatica anneal, just came over to Adobe as a, you know, VP, which is crazy,

TK Kader  33:42
ya know, VP, VP is a big deal is huge. And Senior directors, also big, big deal. And that's what like they gave me they're like, you're gonna be senior director. It is big, big. It's all huge. And yeah, I remember I was talking to a recruiter, and I'm like, Listen, you're not going to give me this job. I don't even want to interview for it. And they're like, how do you know that? They're, and I was like, honestly, I don't think you're ready for a 30 something VP? Like, I think you're going to hire someone that's like, very proven, and maybe has spent 10 years at Adobe and, or is coming from another company that is like, like Google and like, that's what that is the right? That is what I would hire. And she was like, I don't think that's true. You should interview I'm like, okay, fine, I'll interview and I did, because you get to meet. I mean, you get to meet the executive at Adobe, like, it's, it's insane. So I met got to meet with a lot of people, except for the CEO. I didn't get to meet with him, but that's okay. And I had to do the homework and everything. And I kind of went through that experience. And then I looked at, you know, I started off as a solo founder at tout app, and building that company, oh, CEO, I grew that to 7 million arr. And then I'm marchetto badass, and I became SVP of strategy, random from regions and alliances and then I was now you No like a, like a roll that they were trying to fit me into an Adobe, and there are different options and basically 10 years has had passed in that journey. And there was a little bit of like, you know, I think I should just stop for a second before I jump into another thing. I. And so that was a natural, like I integrated, my team made sure everyone was good, everyone, like, kind of got great roles. And then I decided to take some time off. And that's what that was last

Kevin Raheja  35:31
year. So from the perspective of strategy and alliances, how did you kind of help Adobe craft that like b2b narrative?

TK Kader  35:40
Yeah, so that was interesting. Um, for an organization that didn't really have a b2b arm, they had a lot of opinions on what a b2b arm should be. And I think what was interesting, in that I only spent three months there. And so most of my time was like, Hey, here's what I would do. I'm leaving. But you know, best of luck, here's what I would do. And so I think they already had preconceived notions on what that was going to what that was going to be. And I think they were kind of just like, and and, you know, like, none of the executive team is there right now at Adobe, the marketers echo team, everyone's moved on. And so I think the general and this is not a bad thing. This is just a thing. They had a pre clear plan. And they were like, thank you very much. We'll take the asset, we'll take it from here. And that's kind of how it generally went, and so didn't have much influence beyond some strategy briefs that I send over that they appreciate it. And that was it.

Jared Fuller  36:46
Let's, um, let's try to go into some tips here. So on the on the sell side, if you're building partnerships, what are tk cotters? What are your what's your, you know, maybe your five, top three top five tips of like, Hey, if you're on the sell side, and you're building a partnership, here's what you need to get, right?

TK Kader  37:04
Yeah. Um, I think, firstly, understand what is your number one system of record, like, if we're talking strictly SAS businesses, which is what I specialize in, find out whoever you're serving, who's the system of record, there's usually one or two, that's it. Ah, focus on those first and really make sure you have number one, a really smooth integration. Number two, a really compelling story on why you add more value, why they can't just get it done natively in the core platform. Once you have those two nailed, figure out who their customers are and learn how to sell to them directly. As you build momentum, then approach for deeper partnerships. Don't do it the other way around. So what so so what what most people will do is they'll try to integrate with 20 platforms, the spread is real thin. So they'll have a love story. It won't be an A plus integration. And then they'll go to each of those and say, Hey, do you want to partner like and bizdev people are the worst, I hate this. Because they like, honestly, like the craft has poor people because it most of us don't really get a deal done. Like most business people don't know how to get a deal done. And so you approach them, you have enough things and you say like, oh I met with so and so and nothing happens. If you really want to get that tension, focus on the one system of record, maybe the one system of engagement. And really, really build an A plus integration really hone out and why you add more value, go get their big customers go get like directly go approach them say here's how we add value. We know use this, here's how we add value. This is why you need this. And then go approach the partial organization and say, Hey, you know what surprised us a whole bunch of our top customers also use you, here's the logos, what do you think about doing something together. And at that point, the other partnership side, even at the larger company, they'll be salivating because they'll be like, oh, like, we can plug this in and make more money. And then don't be shy about giving rev share who cares, like your cost of acquiring a customer when you go approach them directly, is going to be $1,000. If you are you know if you're a true b2b SaaS company that's serving the upper mid market and enterprise. Now, if you get a warm intro, if you get access to cold marketing, if you can use their brand, that's easily going to be less than $1,000 everything's gonna move a lot faster. So, so giving them a rev share is, is actually good business. And so that's how I would approach it.

Jared Fuller  39:32
I love that. It's, um, we talked about that in our first episode, Kevin, right, like finding your first Sumo like, because I agree with that philosophy. 100% like most BD people, you know, they're trying to figure out do I do all the things or do I do one thing? Well, and I think it's, you know, the simplify focus and repeat. What about on the on the sell side? Let's say what are the what's what are your tips and tricks for the other side, like on the auction On the on the buy side, what are your tips and tricks on the buy side? Um, I think that, uh, no, I think I would say, you know, this one would vary a lot, depending on what stage you're at. Right? But, um, I mean, do you have a sense of like, what what your, for your audience what stage they're at, and generally on the buy side, or is that it's both like we have, we have folks that are listening that are in, you know, the fortune 500 in partnerships, and also early stage, you know, partner partnership leaders, right, like a head of partnerships, but it's a team of one,

TK Kader  40:32
one of the first so on the buy side, one of the first things that I did was I hired a really strong data guy, because we just didn't have enough data, we didn't understand what were truly sourced deals, what were influenced deals, we didn't understand which of our partners were consuming our API's the most, we never say any of that. And what you really want to start to understand first is from the service partner side, who are the ones that are really bringing more deals on the table, like truly, and you will always see an 8020 distribution on those. There's always going to be partners, I had so many marchetto partners, I came in, like, Do you know who I am? I've been with Marketo from for, like 10 years. And I would look at my little thing. And I'm like, that's cool. When last two years, you've given us no business. So I don't know what I know, you want to be like number one, but go talk to those three guys, they have brought me the most business, we're gonna empower them. So that's like get the data straight. Once you start to understand which of your technology partners are consuming your API's, like the number of API calls that are happening the most, then you start to understand what your customers want. And so go prioritize those deals. And so I think number like the first thing would be like data, like get get your data straight. Everyone says they're data driven. marketers are the biggest ones that are guilty of this and they're not and bizdev. Alliance organizations are even less so data driven. So I would get the data straight and really look at the where's where's the money coming from? And where's the API calls coming from? Because those two will give you a lot? Did you monetize API

Jared Fuller  41:58
calls? I recall Marketo charging for for that as well, as part of, you know, your overall contract value.

TK Kader  42:03
I think, if you did, um, I forget, we changed change pricing and packaging, I think you have obviously you've got a certain number of API calls included up to a certain point. And then beyond that he had to pay more. That's generally what the principle was. Right? So like if a partner is really blown out API calls, because they're aggregating a bunch of stuff like you could potentially make the case for, like better net dollar retention, because that partner is involved. Yep. Yep, exactly. So data is number one. Number two thing I would say, at least from my experience was we got really smart about co marketing. And I think a lot of companies don't, within an alliances, or they don't do co marketing well. And the reason for that is it's a bunch of bizdev people trying to do marketing. So I hired a marketer. And I armed him and I aligned him. And this is one of the perks of you know, also being as VP of strategy, I was also able to, like get priority on the on our core marketing team to support partners. And we paired them up and we said, Go generate pipeline, like you are a sponsor, you have a pipeline number that you're responsible for. But you can all you want, what you have an advantage on is you have three to five of these top revenue generating partners, and you have three to five of these top technology partners use them to run a marketing campaign. And that like, that is why like, under under when I ran alliances, we had our largest in company history in terms of source revenue and influence revenue ever. The largest in terms of technology, platform revenue, but that's only because I got that going that year, then we didn't have it before. But we were able to do that because we got marketing down solid, like we built our marketing team inside that alliances organization, it was like, amazing. So that would be my second thing. Because I think bizdev tends to be kind of a sales type of approach, which is one to one. But if you can switch to one to many and really get leverage that can be very powerful.

Kevin Raheja  43:57
How would you engage with your sales team during this time? Because if I recall, there was also like a co selling aspect to the way you did partnerships, right.

TK Kader  44:06
Yeah, we built out this a standard playbook. But I think what we did differently was we built out of an army of partner managers, entry level people, they're, they're fresh, they're young, they've never done sales before. They've never done alliances before. But their sole job was to ensure that partners and our sales people were talking on deals that they should be talking on. And they were the champion for partners on every deal. And that that Partner Manager, and I know partner measure roles exists in like every company and every last organization is fairly standard. But what I opted for I was like, I need bodies that can have coverage on all the deals. And so I instead of hiring really experienced partner managers, which they have a certain need, and I had a couple of those but I elevated them. I hired an army of entry level people and they just floated off All deals to make sure that partners were involved when they could really, because what we knew, and again, so this connects back to Principle number one, I knew from the data, our win rate was 25% higher when partners were involved, I knew that our deal sizes were bigger when partners were involved. So I use that data on every executive keynote in front of the company to say, when you involve a partner, here's what happens to your deals. Talk to your nearest Partner Manager, I flooded the streets with Partner Manager so that salespeople can get help between those two, we rocked it

Jared Fuller  45:32
amazing. What a What a story all in what, three years, like less than three years, two years, two years, two years, and that's that's as close folks as you're going to get to an MBA and PhD in business development and partnerships right there. Like TK, TK is gonna be bringing us the the masterclass course on, on all that coming soon. I think that's a perfect spot to end before we wrap up. We'll also chat one more time with TK is quick reminder this episode is sponsored by cross beam cross beam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners, while keeping the rest of your data private and secure. So you can sign up for free MIT cross beam.com and shout out for featuring us in their newsletter last week to that pretty cool. Front of like 10,000 partner folks. tk, Kevin parting thoughts. Oh,

TK Kader  46:30
keep closing deals. That's all that matters.

Jared Fuller  46:33
That's what that is what matters. It's not all about martini glasses and golf courses, especially during quarantine. That's not BD in 2020. You got to close deals. Love it. Awesome. tk thanks so much for coming.

TK Kader  46:44
Thank you for having me. This was a blast. You're gonna have you back on

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